Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books I completed this past week are:

When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
On the Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Reviews posted this week:

The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard
On the Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: On the Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel

I took a Russian-Soviet Life class in high school.  We read both Russian and Soviet dissident writers as well as learning the history of this massive country and its peoples.  I took two years of Russian which left me able to count to ten and insult people. I took Russian history classes in college.  Go ahead and ask me about Peter the Great!  Obviously I have been intrigued by Russia for a long time. I was less interested in the country in its incarnation as the USSR though, despite the second half of that history/literature class I had in high school. There was just something about the institutionalized grimness that appealed to me far less than the glamour of the tsars and tsarinas (yes, I plain old ignored the plight of the serfs). But over the many years since I was in school, I have picked up more and read more about this fascinating part of the world, once so closed off and now so prominent in our own currentpolitical situation. The grimness of life in the USSR is still not my favorite part of history but I am more open to it than I ever used to be so I was intrigued by the idea behind Neville Frankel's novel On the Sickle's Edge.

Lena's family were Latvian Jews. Her father fled to South Africa after deserting from the tsar's army. His wife and children made the journey later and it was in South Africa that Lena and her twin brother were born. Their mother died in childbirth and this tragedy ultimately drove their father to take his three youngest children back to their village in Illuxt. He left the two oldest boys, young teens, in South Africa as he didn't have the funds to pay for so many passages back to Russia. The separation was intended to be temporary but the First World War and then the Russian Revolution exploded, making the family's split permanent. The narrative then follows Lena and her family as they give up Judaism in the hopes of making their way in the new communist Moscow. Eventually the story includes Darya, Lena's granddaughter who marries a man determined to rise in the ranks of the KGB but who is herself questioning what she sees in the party, and Steven, the grandson of one of Lena's South American brothers, now living and working in Boston as an artist and a teacher.

The novel opens with Steven crouched in a clump of trees holding a gun and watching a dacha. From that tense initial image, the narrative of these three generations moves back in time to 1898 to tell the story of this family who escaped, returned, and was trapped in the oppressive USSR to make a living as best they could. It ranges from the tsars to perestroika and glasnost. The bulk of the story is Lena's and she is by far the most interesting of the characters. Frankel does a pretty good job weaving the political happenings of this gigantic country into the lives of his characters, showing the actual effects of policies on the masses. When the novel follows Lena, it is clearly a historical novel but when Darya and Steven become more the focus, it shifts gears into an almost pure political thriller rife with danger, sex, murder, and betrayal. The split is an uneasy one and leaves the reader wondering what the book is supposed to be as it is neither one nor the other. The small details, like the difference in food available to those who are merely workers and those who are party officials, expose the flawed society quite clearly. The atmosphere of the novel feels right and the generational story is interesting over all if too long.

Although the story was generally good enough, it was  a bit ponderous and I never quite felt fully immersed in it so when I came across details that were wrong, well, I couldn't stop myself from noting them. Darya's eye color when Lena meets her goes from being the same startling green as her grandfather's to being brown when Steven later describes them. Late in the novel Lena is surprised by Steven's resemblance to her father and his great-grandfather so she shows him a picture of the family. In it are her father, his wife, her older brothers and sister, and Lena and her twin. The problem is that Lena's mother died giving birth to Lena and her brother and her stepmother was never in a photo with the oldest boys who were left behind in South Africa before she and their father married. Darya and Steven are described in the novel as being distant cousins but based on the family tree at the beginning of the novel, they are actually only second cousins, not terribly distant at all as their grandparents were siblings. Small mistakes for sure, but ones that pulled this reader out of the tale. Couple these mistakes with the strange thriller-y turn the novel took in the last third to quarter of the book and it didn't work for me quite as well as I had hoped. Others have really loved it though so perhaps you should try it for yourself if the premise interests you as it did me.

For more information about Neville D. Frankel and the book, check out his website, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Dialogos Books for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

Chemistry by Weike Wang. The book is being released by Knopf on May 23, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: A luminous coming-of-age novel about a young female scientist who must recalibrate her life when her academic career goes off track; perfect for readers of Lab Girl and Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You.

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She's tormented by her failed research--and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there's another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can't make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she's confronted with a question she won't find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry--one in which the reactions can't be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard

When someone we love dies, we don't want to believe that means they are gone forever. We look for signs that they are still with us, watching over us. Wherever we think they are though, they certainly aren't where we want them to be, beside us, holding our hand, loving us, and living with us. In Russell Ricard's debut novel, The Truth About Goodbye, will this uncertainty and yearning for a lost loved one keep the main character from going on and living or will it help him to understand the truth about goodbye?

Sebastian is turning forty and it's not just his age that is weighing on him (although the number bothers him as well). His birthday is the anniversary of his husband Frank's death a year ago. Sebastian is still grieving Frank. Wrapped in a heavy cloak of guilt because they argued over a younger, good looking, former fling of Frank's the night Frank died, Sebastian has been having trouble putting one foot in front of another. He can't bring himself to clean up his apartment, he can't contemplate dating, and he can't seem to create the choreography that would help him move beyond the chorus boy roles he's been playing for over two decades. On the plus side, Sebastian has his over the top friend, Chloe, a former Rockette, who is trying hard to haul Seb out of the dark pit he's living in by introducing him to the delectable Reid, a man who intrigues Seb but also makes him feel as if he's cheating on Frank. Sebastian also has his guru, wellness coach, and yogi Andrew who is helping him to keep breathing even if he can't quite get Sebastian to address his deeper issues. And finally in Seb's corner, is his furry cat Arthur. In fact, it is originally through Arthur that Seb first suspects that Frank is still with him.

Seb is skittish, running hot and cold about Reid. He's a drama queen, and he's suddenly seeing Frank's ghost on the ceiling. The biggest constant in his life is his community center gig teaching tap. These things come together to round out his character as a nice man who's a little flaky, overwhelmed by grief, angry at fate, and uncertain how to push on. His loss will always be a part of him but as the novel opens, it is consuming him. Ricard has done a nice job showing how grief creeps into all corners of a life. But he's also done a nice job showing how loyal friends can be the bridge between a formerly happy life and a new and different, happy life. There are some interesting snapshots into NYC musical theater life and a look at what's available as the next stage for someone aging out of being a chorus boy. Reid was a lovely, understanding man but the reason for his determined pursuit of Seb, who was nothing if not capricious towards Reid and a possible relationship, wasn't entirely clear. Chloe is a wonderful friend and brings some fantastic levity to the story.  The end was predictable, perhaps feeling more so that way because there's a four year gap between the bulk of the story and the final chapter.  In the end though, this was a sweet love story about living and healing after loss.

For more information about Russell Ricard and the book, check out his publisher's author website, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Wise Ink for sending me a copy of this book to review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Truth About Goodbye by Russell Ricard
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea

Reviews posted this week:

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

The Heirs by Susan Rieger. The book is being released by Crown on May 23, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Brilliantly wrought, incisive, and stirring, The Heirs tells the story of an upper-crust Manhattan family coming undone after the death of their patriarch

Six months after Rupert Falkes dies, leaving a grieving widow and five adult sons, an unknown woman sues his estate, claiming she had two sons by him. The Falkes brothers are pitched into turmoil, at once missing their father and feeling betrayed by him. In disconcerting contrast, their mother, Eleanor, is cool and calm, showing preternatural composure.

Eleanor and Rupert had made an admirable life together -- Eleanor with her sly wit and generosity, Rupert with his ambition and English charm -- and they were proud of their handsome, talented sons: Harry, a brash law professor; Will, a savvy Hollywood agent; Sam, an astute doctor and scientific researcher; Jack, a jazz trumpet prodigy; Tom, a public-spirited federal prosecutor. The brothers see their identity and success as inextricably tied to family loyalty – a loyalty they always believed their father shared. Struggling to reclaim their identity, the brothers find Eleanor’s sympathy toward the woman and her sons confounding. Widowhood has let her cast off the rigid propriety of her stifling upbringing, and the brothers begin to question whether they knew either of their parents at all.

A riveting portrait of a family, told with compassion, insight, and wit, The Heirs wrestles with the tangled nature of inheritance and legacy for one unforgettable, patrician New York family. Moving seamlessly through a constellation of rich, arresting voices, The Heirs is a tale out Edith Wharton for the 21st century.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Generally it's my husband who reads the spy novels in this house. Stereotypical, I know, but for the most part, I don't have much interest in thrillers or espionage. There are rare exceptions and Helen Dunmore's novel, Exposure, is one of those exceptions, perhaps because it is as much about all of the innocent and not so innocent victims of such a crime and the ways in which their own secrets and lies come to light in the face of the accusation of spying as it is about the espionage itself.

London, 1960. The height of the Cold War. Simon Callington lives with his wife Lily and their three children. He's a minor official at the Admiralty who agrees to bail out old friend and fellow co-worker Giles after Giles ends up in hospital under suspicious circumstances. That the file Simon recovers from Giles' flat is meant to be passed on to someone else is clear but it being in Simon's possession at all implicates him in something bigger than he ever expected and he finds himself morally trapped. Simon must be the fall guy for his accidental discovery and he must keep quiet, even in the face of innocence, to protect himself and so many others from their own shame of exposure whether it be over the espionage itself or a hidden heritage or a homosexual affair. How his silent complicity affects everyone else in the novel drives the majority of the story, rather than the secrets hidden in the file. Everyone is hiding something, holding close their own secrets, and shying away from exposure, making everyone suspect in their own way.

Dunmore is masterful in her drawing of this subtle, threatening tale. The complexity of weaving each character's point of view together, explaining all of the various omissions and secretive actions that could have changed their trajectories is done so very well that the reader never once wonders why the obvious truth remained so shrouded in mystery. She taps into the secrecy and paranoia of the time period, as well as its banality, beautifully. Both Simon and Lily are fearful of sharing their secrets, of shattering the life they have built, making them the perfect people to be manipulated by the faceless espionage ring. There is a slow rising tension, a looming unease, as the narrative progresses even though not much happens until the unexpected climax, right near the end when the narrative is quickly blown open only to close over again just as quickly. A stunning way to end a novel about fear and shame and secrets. Definitely not a traditional espionage thriller, this is tangled and complicated and menacing and an adroit, skillful look at human beings in all their inscrutability.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

started a bunch; finished none

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Reviews posted this week:

The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack
The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar

Monday Mailbox

More NRGM submissions filling the mailbox and they still have to be kept secret but check out this amazing trio instead! This past week's mailbox arrivals:

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry came from Custom House and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

I've heard nothing but wonderful things about this tale of a widowed amateur naturalist and a local vicar both interested in why locals claim that the mythical Essex Serpent has returned after 300 years. This juxtaposition of science and religion should be fascinating indeed.

The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

How could I possibly pass up a book about the Whitaker girls, as I am one myself? OK, so we're not exactly four generations of women reuniting in a crumbling family mansion by the sea, but I still can't wait.

A Speck in the Sea by John Aldridge and Anthony Sosinski came from Weinstein Books.

A true adventure at sea tale about a man who was tossed overboard in the middle of the ocean while his partner slept below, this tale of the search and rescue should get my heart pumping for sure!

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

Nowadays you can swipe right or scroll through dozens of people suggested by an algorithm on any number of internet dating sites in the search for your soulmate but before the internet, those searching for love had far fewer resources. They could hope to just meet someone serendipitously, they could ask for their family and friends to introduce them to likely partners, or, just before World War II, they could sign up with the Marriage Bureau, a brand new matchmaking service opened in 1939 and located in London. Penrose Halson, who not only ran her own matchmaking service in the Katherine Allen Marriage and Advice Bureau and eventually bought the original Marriage Bureau but also used the service herself, has written a charming, entertaining history of the unconventional agency and the tales of some of the clients and the matches they made under the bureau's auspices.

Audrey Parsons went out to India to marry a man near her uncle's remote tea plantation. Once there she knew they wouldn't suit and she ended by returning to England. This wasn't the first time that a trip to India and an engagement didn't end at the altar for her, much to her parents' chagrin. What she did come home with though was the seed of the idea, proposed by her uncle, that would eventually become the Marriage Bureau. Enlisting her friend, Heather Jenner, a socially astute divorcee, the two women determined to start a business that would match up eligible single men and women with suitable people they might not otherwise meet. Jenner and Parsons, the latter using the name Mary Oliver to hide her potentially scandalous actions from her parents, built the first matchmaking business of its kind even as the shadow of WWII loomed ever closer. The two women insisted on interviewing each of their clients, and they maintained a meticulous record of each person in order to find good and viable matches for as many people as possible. They took into consideration not only class and age but also some interesting and unique wants and likes. Their businesslike approach and astute use of feel-good publicity grew their business into a thriving concern and many people did in fact find their partner and happiness through the auspices of the Marriage Bureau.

This delightful true story captures the imagination of the reader much as the business did of a nation starved for positive news in the face of an imminent war. The tales of the real people who turned to Jenner and Oliver run the gamut. Some people were delights while others were positively difficult and demanding. The way that they carefully vetted all clients was fascinating and reflected the mores and attitudes of the time. Starting in 1939 and initially thought of as a good way for expats only back in Blighty for a brief time to find a wife, the bureau expanded to take on all sorts from local to international and it stayed as busy, if not more so, during the war, as it had beforehand. Because of the inclusion of the stories of the matches, the narrative has a very episodic feel to it.  Its general tone is sweet and cheerful although there are certainly some very poignant and sad tales included as well.  The very end includes lists of actual comments the interviewers made about the clients and some were a bit horrifyingly unkind but they were entertaining all the same (although I shudder to think what notes on me might have looked like). The book only covers the first ten years of the bureau's existence and I would have liked more on how the bureau evolved over the years, even if only in an epilogue. This is a quick read, a fascinating snapshot of a time and a society, a very different angle on the war years indeed.

For more information about Penrose Halson and the book, check out her publisher's author website or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The book is being released by Pamela Dorman Books on May 9, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Vicar's Daughter by Josi Kilpack

There are some novels that you should, by all rights, enjoy. They have all sorts of elements that usually guarantee your gushing enthusiasm. But somehow, in practice, they end up not working for you at all. Unfortunately Josi Kilpack's The Vicar's Daughter was one of these for me. A historical romance with more than a hint of a Cyrano de Bergerac story line, this should have been right up my alley.

Twenty year old Cassie Wilton is the youngest of six sisters. Her father, the vicar of the title, and mother can only afford for one daughter to be out in society at a time but Lenora, the sister just older than Cassie, is so shy and uncomfortable in social situations that she's not likely to get married any time soon. And Cassie, who has her eye on a young local man and feeling as if her own chances of marriage dwindle as time goes by, doesn't want to wait her turn. When Lenora comes home from a ball with a handkerchief she was lent during an allergy attack and tells Cassie about the kindness of Evan, the owner of the handkerchief and a former clerk new to town who has been named as his wealthy great-uncle's heir, Cassie hatches a plan to bring Lenora and Evan together. She writes letters to Evan in Lenora's name, eventually falling for him herself, even as he's falling for the Lenora he believes is the author of the letters. All of a sudden it looks like Cassie's meddling is going to lead to unhappiness and heartbreak for all three people involved.

This should have guaranteed I like the book but I didn't like Cassie much nor did I like her selfishly milquetoast sister. That her parents catered to her sister without regard to Cassie's feelings in any way was incredibly frustrating, even if Cassie was annoying. That Evan was unfamiliar with the social rules of those who were once firmly his superiors is believable but that those he consulted gave him such poor advice (perhaps understandable from his rival for Cassie's affection but inexcusable from his uncle) was crazy-making. Quite frankly, he didn't have much of a presence in the book at all despite being the ostensible hero. More fleshed out than Evan's character, the female characters were not consistent in their actions. Cassie docile and abashed all of a sudden and Lenora inexplicably finding a backbone only when it suited to move the plot away from an untenable situation just didn't ring true. There were dolloping heaps of sanctimony and moralizing to go around and the actual romance felt thin and unsubstantiated. Those who want a story about self-sacrifice and forgiveness might find what they're looking for in this clean romance, I guess I prefer more romance in my romances (and no, I don't mean that as a euphemism for something else).

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

Miss You by Kate Eberlen
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley

Reviews posted this week:

By the Wayside by Anne Leigh Parrish
Hard-Hearted Highlander by Julia London
Miss You by Kate Eberlen

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar

Monday Mailbox

More NRGM submissions filling the mailbox and they still have to be kept secret but a nice quartet I can tell you about. This past week's mailbox arrivals:

On the Sickle's Edge by Neville D. Frankel came from Dialogos and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Generational sagas are kind of my kryptonite so I am looking forward to this one about seven generations and their lives in South Africa, the Soviet Union, Latvia, and the US.

You're the One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher came from Macmillan.

A love triangle with best friends? Oh yeah, this one will be in my beach bag this summer for sure!

The F Word by Liza Palmer came from Macmillan.

How can you pass up a book titled this? I don't know if the word I'm thinking of (and so are you, if you just admit it) has any connection to the story of a woman who appears to be perfect until her past, in the person of her old high school crush, comes calling but I am looking forward to finding out.

The Bad Luck Bride by Janna MacGregor came from Macmillan.

An historical romance where the bride is considered cursed since she's been engaged time and time again but never managed to make it to the altar? Just up my alley.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

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